Tupac Interview The Source Magazine [March, 1996]

- Advertisement -
Tupac Interview 1996 Source Magazine

Tupac Shakur: Life after death, living on death row & killing the east coast

By Adario Strange

Photos by Chi Modu

In the mind of the young Black man who caresses the streets of America with his languid form, moving ever between the blackening flame of his own discontent and the ice suurrounding his heart made hard by an unforgiving society, resides the most fascinating balancing act known to modern man: that of delicately holding on to your sanity with the wind at your back and finding a reason to live while the audience below screams that you’re crazy not to jump into the depths of your own lunacy. Besides, they yell, it is your nature to lose your mind.

”I’m livin’ that thug life baby
stressin’, smokin’ Indo goin’ crazy
baby come and hug me when ya rub me
turn the lights down, lay in the dark when ya love me
everybody talkin’ ’bout they know me
but they ain’t down like my motherfuckin’ homies
tell me what ya need when ya see me
and we can get it on, beeyotch take it easy
don’t try to hold me, control me
but you can take my number baby call me when ya lonely
’cause it’s a man’s world ain’t no need to ask why
I’m high till I die, and strapped with my 4-5
’cause you could lose it in the gutter
I wonder if I’ll die by the hands of
another broke motherfucker
they call me the alcohol I’m all in
thug for life, nigga ballin’
I’m gettin’ tired of these hoes tryin’ to play me
you can’t fade me and my niggas goin’ crazy
all day I’m straight thuggin’
and constantly mean muggin’
breakin’ the bitches that be buggin’
tell me
who do you love
maybe It’s the thug in me.”

-Tupac, from “Who Do You Luv,” 1993 unreleased

Tupac Shakur, who many wish to believe Is one of America’s chief outlaws, has just been released from prison on $1 million bail, pending an appeal on a rape conviction he says he’s not guilty of. At around 5’ 6”, a lithe yet slightly muscular buck fifty pounds, Tupac’s stature remains one of defiant confidence and unpredictable mayhem. Weathered by his 11 month stint in jail, Tupac has nevertheless retained his classic features and the smooth, earth-colored complexion that has drawn many a woman near despite his testosterone-laced verses often spat with errant bitches and hoes mixed throughout. The women see what they wish to see, a brash hero ready to die. Maybe even, for love, they hope.

Surrounded by his new crew, the Outlaw Immortals—an assortment of young Black men whose foreign dictator and movie gangster monikers color their aspirations in the truest hue—Tupac moves around a small Los Angeles apartment as though it were a war room. These are his soldiers, or at least the beginnings of an army Tupac (now also known as Machiavelli—an obvious ode to the famous political philosopher) hopes to build on his quest to become that “international nigga.” With the impending release of All Eyez On Me, a 28-cut double album featuring the vocal stylings of Snoop, Redman, Method Man, Jodeci, Faith Evans and Tha Dogg Pound, and the production signatures of Dr. Dre, DJ Quik, QD3, Daz, DJ Pooh and Bobcat, Tupac’s worldly aspirations seem only hindered by his open court cases and well-known penchant for the fast life. His crew views him as they wish him to be seen, as their way out of poverty. Not as their way out of the ghetto per se, for to them Tupac may well be the blueprint for a new urban guerrilla whose favorite home lies within the slums—a kind of self-induced substitute father mechanism and tactical necessity for the new world order. Ultimately, this is a way deeper into the ghetto, that possibly leads to reinventing the meaning of the word.

Many different people see Tupac as many different things: hustler, actor, thug, faker, realist, lover, hater, artist, opportunist. But in reality he is all of these. And while this observation may appear to make him unique, it actually simplifies him into the universal symbol of young Black manhood that he is; American society’s most vibrant and visible symbol of contradiction, one that comes out looking terrible and beautiful all at once.

A prince should have no other aim or thoughts, nor take up any other thing for his study, but war and its organization and discipline, for that is the only art that is necessary to one who commands, and it is of such virtue that it not only maintains those who are bom princes, but often enables men of private fortune to attain to that rank.

—Niccolo Machiavelli, from The Prince

Fully immersed within a thick cloud of television noise, shit talking and marijuana smoke, accented by a light oily mist emanating from the hot links being fried in the kitchen by 6′ 4”, 200-plus Syke, Tupac’s ever-present lieutenant, the 24-year-old ex-con seems hardly changed by his time in prison as he settles into the sofa and begins reflecting on the last couple of years. “Back then, I was a soldier, I was going through my stages, still earning my stripes. Now, in ‘96, I’m the Don. Not of the world, but of my crew. I live to be successful in this game, because life ain’t nothing but a game. It’s not what they told us when we was kids. You know, you be nice, people will be nice to you. No. It is a game.”

That very same game once took Tupac on his famous rollercoaster ride through several gun possession cases, assault charges, sexual assault cases and numerous studio to street rap wars. Watching him in the present, not humbly converted to some new religion or claiming a brand new way of life, but cavorting with his homies just like before, forces one to wonder if he’s learned from his experiences. “Look, before, I didn’t give a fuck. Now, I pick the fights I have. Everybody was saying I was such a bad boy, but look how bad they was. I’m locked down in jail, Donnie Simpson telling jokes, Wendy Williams (of NYC’s Hot 97 radio station) telling motherfuckers I got raped, you got motherfuckers just running off at the mouth. They beggin’ for me to whip they ass. They beggin’ for the old Tupac. But that’s the trick, that’s why I can’t go out like that. I’m coming back with an army and I’m coming back my own man, and stronger.”

- Advertisement -

Energy welling up into the veins In his neck, Tupac digs into the subject at hand. “What made me stronger was getting charged for a crime I didn’t commit, getting charged with shooting two police officers and having every cop in the country after me. It was the dude shooting the cop saying he did it ‘cause I told him to do it. All the moments I spent in cuffs, all the times I woke up broke ’cause I had to pay the lawyers. All the times I had to pay somebody off ’cause they was lying but I didn’t have the time to go to court. All the shows I had to cancel, all the mouths I had to feed, you Know the struggle had to go on. And I feel like I never stopped when a lot of people would have stopped. I didn’t fall, and that helped move me to the next level. I always thought I had to fight my way to the next level, but you have to think your way to the next level. And that’s when it came to me, when I went to jail. That little stint got me to thinking. I watched my leg heal, I watched holes close up, and I was like, ‘that’s how it gotta be.’ Not that I can’t die, but I lost the fear now, they done blew it for me. I used to be scared of guns. That was one of the things I was scared of, getting shot, they done blew it for me. I need to see some tanks or something, some missiles. I’m not on that death wish no more. I wanna live, but I’m not fin to sacrifice my morals, my principles and what I believe in. I’m not gonna give up my honor to live.”

A man who wishes to make a profession of goodness in everything must necessarily come to grief among so many who are not good. Therefore, it is necessary for a prince, who wishes to maintain himself, to learn how not to be good. . .

Much is made of the “bad boy” persona, especially as it relates to young Black men who appear to have elevated the art of being low down to a suave and even chic artifice of attitude, appearance and action. But far from the cool perception, as reality often resides, the sum of many so-called thugs is made up more of pain than cinematic adventures. In this, Tupac is no different. “What put me in this mentality was when the females who my momma raised me to believe were my sisters and were part of my family started suing me, charging me with rape, setting me up, going to the police, anything for the money. That’s why I live this way. For the niggas who woof, ‘Fuck you, you little skinny nlgga. Fuck you, you a punk,’ and then I go over and punch them in the mouth, and then they be in court talking about I assaulted them. That’s why I live this way. For my homeboys who are geniuses, who are mathematicians, who can’t get no work. Who the only thing he could see is being a drug dealer, that’s why I live like this. For my homeboys that’s pimps who don’t even know what a real woman is because they never met one, that’s why I live this way. For all of that. For my momma who struggled and starved, for my family. For everybody who could never do, I can, and I’m gonna do.”

A wise prince will seek means by which his subjects will always and In every possible condition of things have need of his government, and then they will always be faithful to him.


Where did all this beef with Bad Boy Records come from?

“This just stemmed from some gangster shyt that got caught up in this record company shyt. And some nikkas that you thought was strong, that you thought was gangstas, that you thought was Big Poppas, turned into cowards ‘cause some real gangstas came at them.”

I remember when I first met you in ‘93, you were rollin’ with Biggie. What killed that?

“I was puttin Biggie on. What killed it was Biggie got put on. Biggie was in Thug Life. He used to be like, “Thug Life, Thug Life.” He used to be like, “Fuck Bad Boy. I hate Puffy, I aint fuckin’ with him. Sign me Pac.” I just aint have no chips for the nigga and I wasnt gonna lie to him. He made his album and I was making my album. This is before Me against the world came out. I used to hear his tracks, he used to hear my tracks. Our styles were totally different. My shit was on some, Im about to die, like you hear on Me against The world, but it was even a lot more shit about death. This nigga album come out, Ready to die, its all my album. And Biggie used to sit up there and ask me, “How do you do them choruses? You the hook man, How you do this? How you do that?” I used to tell that nigga, dont do none of that gangsta shit you better get at these females. Because the females buy your tape. The nikkas buy your tape because the females want the tape. And look, he came out on some Big Poppa shyt. Thats straight up robbery. But even after that, long as he was my homeboy, that was okay. But soon as he started acting like he was his own man….niggas knew that I was at the point where I couldnt just be just ridin on niggas. I had like 50 gun cases, 30 assault cases and they didnt have none. So they was plottin’.”

And what about you and Stretch from Live Squad?

“Stretch was my closest dog, my closest homie. I did alot of drama, I got into alot of cases and shyt because of Stretch. Money wise, he couldve had anything. His daughter was my daughter, whatever she wanted she could have. Then this shit happened and the nikka didnt ride for me. He didnt do what your dog is supposed to do when you shot up. When I was in jail, nigga never wrote me, never got at me. His homeboys was coming to see me nad he wasnt coming to see me. And he started hangin around Biggie right after this. Im in jail, shot up, his main dog and he hangin out going to shows with Biggie. Both these niggas never came to see me.”

And before he passed, you never got a chance to talk to him?

“Ain’t no words. The rules of the game are so self-explanatory.”

After all that went down, people are trying to say its some sort of hit connection…

“Nah, Know what happend? Rules of the game, what comes around goes around. I never had no violent thoughts towards Stretch at all. I just didnt want to fuck with him no more, but I didnt want to kill him. He was my dog. Once you my dog, you my dog. He got shot just like I got shot. Everybody believed it was just a random fuckin robbery (when I got shot), this nigga get killed, now random shit dont happen. There are two methods of fighting, the one by law, the other by force: the first method is that of men, the second of beasts; but as the first method is often insufficient, one must have recourse to the second.”

What made this an East Coast vs. West Coast thing?

“I’m from the East Coast. That’s why I can feel like this. To my peoples in New York who got love for me, ignore this. Don’t even trip. But they attacking me in such mass amounts that I cant no longer call these nikkas names out. And they all coming from New York. That’s where I gotta start bangin.’ But even after all this happened, Dre, Snoop and the Pound made peace with Puffy on stage at the Source Awards…”

But then somebody shot at the Dogg Pound video trailer.You know any details about that?

“Biggie got on the radio saying, “This is where them niggas is at, they making a video dissin New York. Yall need to get at them,” niggas rolled down there and got with them. Funkmaster Flex, all them nikkas was who-riden on the radio and some niggas went down there and handled their wax. But nobody got hurt, fortunately. But see, all they did was step this shit up a level. How did Biggies wife Faith get into all this?Because them niggas be on the radio and in their records and on the videos acting like players. Didn’t Biggie say he was a player? {imitates}”Baby,baby…” Stole my lyrics, I stole his bitch, Took my rhymes, I took his wife. He touched my style, I touched his wife. If he talk all that shit about being a player and I got at his wife 2 days after I got outta jail, imagine that gangsta shit hes talking, how plastic that shit is.”

Where do you see the end of this?

“I’m Black. I believe in the Million Man March and all of that, and I know a lot of kids that are looking up to me…”

- Advertisement -

Did you go? (to the million man march)

“No, I just got outta jail. So instead of being violent, I’m saying do it like this-and I’m doing this because I’m a player and a business man. fuck the fighting, fuck the beef. Bad Boy put out an album with the East Coast best. Death Row put out an album, West Coast best. We release it on the same day. Whoever get the most sales completely, that’s the winner. niggas is petrified of that shit ‘cause they know we gonna outsell em. There would be no more beef, we hug. Me and Biggie could go do pay-per-view shows for community centers. We could rap against each other on stage, we could box on stage. That’s what I’m willing to do ‘cause he Black.”

How did the relationship with you and Suge Knight begin?

“He always used to tell me to come to the Row. But it was too many stars over there and I know how I am. But watching how New York flipped on me…”

What are you saying happend?

“They think I rushed on Tribe Called Quests stage [at The Source Awards ‘94] and that’s not what happened. They played my music. Im going on with my music. What the fuck I look like, Plastic man? Imma play my own DAT? But that’s not what I was mad at. I was mad cause they was booing me. I was mad ‘cause those Zulu Nation niggas came out saying if he ever do that again, he’s gonna get his ass kicked. Well, whip my ass then.”

Even though you knew Death Row had many other priorities, what made you go there anyway?

“Because the homie [Suge] came to me personally, and I was like, “I gotta get outta here.”-He said, “I cant make you no promises, but if you dont get out, ill look out for you, ” I was like, “I’m trying to do my album, help my moms, I got enemies…” He said, “Don’t worry about it.” And i was like, if you get me out Suge, I guarantee I will put Death Row in a position that nobody can take it to. I will take us where no man has ever been before. Ill be a soldier for DeathRow. To show loyalty. Because he was being real to me when nobody was being real.”


“Money wise, niggas knew I was getting out, nobody wanted to touch me, nobody wanted to  fuck with me. niggas was all on the radio talking about they was coming to visit me, but they wasn’t coming to visit me. only MC Lyte, April Walker, Nefertiti, Jada Pinkett, that’s it.”

What were your feelings towards the Million Man March?

“I was extremely proud of it. My only disappointment- and its not a critique of it all, its just a wish- is I wish rappers could’ve had a bigger participation. We who they listening to.”

Do you think it will change something?

“Yeah, I think it changed something, it just set it up for the next time. I got a lot of respect for Farrakan and everything them brothers just did. I love them for that.”

I’ve heard something about Farrakhan possibly being involved in a mediation between your camp and Bad Boy…

“I don’t know nothing about that. When superpowers go to war- were not suckas, we superpowers-once they declare war, they don’t sit down at the table immediately and start negotiating.”

Where do you see the Black man in our age group in the scheme of things-in America and the world?

“We are in the midst of a very dangerous, non-productive, self-destructive civil war, And its not just rap shit. its ideals. And this rap shyt is just bringin it to a head. The East Coast believe one thing, and the West Coast believe one thing. The East Coast got one way of life, the West Coast got another way of life, it always co-existed. We coming to the turn of the century where we gotta mash together. But we can only do it one way, one style, And that’s what we trying to figure out now, and I think the world is watching that.”

Are you saying that you feel music is more important than people give it credit for?

“Yes, music is. I learned this from being in jail getting letters from Berlin and Africa, nikkas telling me to send them a nine-millimeter to Africa. Look how “Dear Momma” just reach in a motherfuckers chest and grab a hole in his heart. “Get Around” just make a motherfucker get on the dancefloor and game at some females. It make homos game at females. That’s music. It ain’t nothing like that. So why we cant put down our agenda, what we believe and what we want to the world within our music?”

Whats the name of this album?

“All Eyes On Me. Because they are. Everybody’s watching for me to fall, die, get crippled, get AIDS, something. This album is my favorite album because its not politically correct. I just got outta jail, I didn’t really give a fuck. Motherfuckers had talked so bad about me, I didn’t care and I just said what I wanted to say and it liberated me. All that shyt gone now. All I kept was the game. I let go of the anger.”

Are you into Pulp Fiction and Quentin Tarrantino?

“I wrote a screen play while I was in jail and that’s the style. Quenton Tarantino is the closest writer/director to our music. That’s what we do. See, he don’t mean no harm by showing violence as entertainment because its everywhere. Same thing we do. Were living in so much poverty and despair that by rapping about it, kinda making its seem like we controlling it, it makes us feel better about being here. And we gotta be here. Wer can’t escape like Bob Dole and Delores Tucker. She only gotta listin to the record and be mad for a few minutes, but the shyt shes mad at is the shyt we living in. I know its bad, but we gotta make it look like its alright., because we livin here.”

Have you discussed the Time/Warner divestment from Interscope Records with Suge?

“Its don’t matter, we natureal born hustlers. Thats why I moved to Death Row, to make us the superpower. The Superpower. We can release ourown records, distribute our own shyt, do our own movies, buy our own planes, have our own casinos, whatever.”

Right now, what is most important to you?

“Making sure every single human being in the USA and the world knows who Tupac is, who Death Row is, and where Los Angeles, California is.”

It’s 11 p.m. on an oddly brisk night in LA, but Tupac feels only the warmth of camaraderie as his label mates Daz, Kurupt and Nate Dogg silently watch him bob to his own voice blasting through the monitor of the multi-million dollar studio, rainbow mix board lights bouncing off of his sweat glistened skin. Like a child at play, he dips and steps to the sound of his George Ciinton/Dr. Dre collaboration cut.

What makes denying the fantasy of the young Black G difficult is the sheer genius of style and creativity so many produce out of seemingly nothing—whether it be the crack game or the rap game—two not totally dissimilar industries. Making it even harder still is the clever way truth is many times intermingled with the drama, thus giving us a tricky maze of logic, which, although often contradictory, is allowed to persist so as to preserve the drug of fantasy. There, truth becomes a subject more open to individual interpretation, as Tupac knows and has become an expert at.

“People need to stop judging motherfuckers. We all living in this life to get to the end of it. Don’t nobody know how shit’s supposed to turn out. Maybe the bums got it right, maybe we supposed to be sleeping on the street resting for the real world whenever this shit is over. Maybe these crazy motherfuckers got it right. Maybe these dope heads got it right, getting doped up and numb ’cause it ain’t shit out here to really see. Maybe these young niggas are right when they’re acting up, when they’re thirteen with guns.

Maybe they know if they waste ten more years getting into this educational system they just gonna get back logged and backed up. Don’t nobody know how this shit gonna turn out. Maybe this Thug Life shit is for real. Maybe I am right. Maybe Death Row is the only thing stopping these motherfuckers from mashing us completely. Maybe Death Row is the only thing stopping these white motherfuckers at dinners talking about, ‘Which ******s do you own?’ ‘Oh, I own all the top level gangster ******s.’”

Free? Maybe.

- Advertisement -


0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Similar Articles


Would love your thoughts, please comment.x

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This